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No wine. No code. No playlist. Is Spotify’s alcohol advertising tone deaf?

The ACCC is currently in the process of collecting submissions into an inquiry about advertising on digital platforms. Source: Getty Images

There’s been a long term push to ban alcohol advertising in Australian sport. Should the same scrutiny be applied to streaming platforms like Spotify?

In July last year a campaign was launched by alcohol delivery service Jimmy Brings and music streaming monolith Spotify.

'The Songmiler Edition' introduced three specialty wines with the Jimmy Brings x Spotify logo and a QR code. Scan the code and you'd be taken to a playlist expertly curated to match the chosen wine.

The campaign was targeted at making throwing a party easier, trading on the tagline "Dinner party planning just got less awkward."

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In July last year a campaign was launched that combined the powers of alcohol delivery service Jimmy Brings and music streaming monolith Spotify.
In July last year a campaign was launched that combined the powers of alcohol delivery service Jimmy Brings and music streaming monolith Spotify.

This isn't the first example of the music streaming giant teaming up with alcohol brands for content on their platform.

If you search 'VB' on Spotify, you'll find 'VB Knock Off Tunes' a playlist of 70 songs sitting under the identifier, "Nothing says knock off like an ice cold Victoria Bitter. Kick back with these knock off tunes."

Jimmy Brings and Spotify advertising
The three specialty wines had were paired with a curated playlist by Spotify.
Jimmy Brings

Earlier in the week, a free-tier Spotify user contacted The Feed to say that he was served advertisements for VB and Chandon at 6am.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently in the process of collecting submissions into an inquiry about advertising on digital platforms, a sector that up until now has operated under little regulations.

"We have a more general concern about alcohol advertising online and the potential for alcohol advertising to be targeted at vulnerable people, including children," said Trish Hepworth, Director of Policy at the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

"We know that alcohol advertising is a problem. When kids are exposed to it they're more likely to drink earlier and they're more likely to drink more when they start drinking."

VB Advertisement on Spotify
If you search ‘VB’ on Spotify, you’ll find ‘VB Knock Off Tunes’ a playlist of 70 songs.
VB Advertisement on Spotify

Alcohol brands in Australia spend an estimated $125 million a year on alcohol advertising on direct television, radio, outdoor, and print media alone, according to the Alcohol Advertising Review Board.

The alcohol industry manages its own advertising code - the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC).

Last year, a Liquorland Spotify advertisement breached the standard requiring no suggestion that alcohol may create or contribute to a significant change in mood, offer a therapeutic benefit or be a necessary aid to relaxation.

It was pulled in response. But there are no penalties when companies breach the rules.

A recent study of thousands of Australian high school students over more than a decade found exposure to alcohol advertising was related to risky underage drinking.

New rules to regulate the placement of alcohol ads were introduced toward the end of 2017, aimed at limiting young people’s exposure.

Researchers from Curtin University found they are unlikely to work and “there is a lack of transparency and independence in the system.”

 FARE intends to make a submission in to the inquiry (which will with the hope that digital platforms will be held to higher standards when it comes to alcohol advertising.

"Because you can't control to exclude vulnerable people, our ideal state is no alcohol ads on digital platforms, in the same vein as tobacco advertising," says Hepworth.

Failing that, Hepworth says she would like to see greater responsibility placed on governments as well as streaming platforms to regulate potentially harmful advertisements.

We want absolutely no more targeted ads towards children

"No company consciously targeting people who are vulnerable in any way and we would like to see increased data transparency so that can actually be regulated."

In a statement to The Feed, a spokesperson for the streaming service said: "Spotify is fully compliant with all applicable local advertising codes and standards."

 

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